The city’s only gallery dedicated to the showing and selling of fine art will close at the end of June.
Some 20 shows after its opening in May 2012, Jacksson Contemporary Art has not proved to be financially viable. The gallery was operating in the red.
Co-owner David Kadlec has been renting the space from a company that he partially owns. The agreement that he struck with partners was that if he did not purchase the Jacksson space, it would be listed for sale.
True to his word, the building at 1030 Jackson St. was recently put up for sale.
Kadlec has had a 42-year career as a photographer, showing his work in Indianapolis and Minneapolis and serving as a curator for his own gallery, the former EyeBlink in Indianapolis. A curator serves as a producer for art shows, selecting the artists and pieces of art appearing in a show, obtaining the art and displaying it to its best advantage.
His wife and business partner in the gallery, Susie Sawin, is a dentist with silversmithing experience.
Jacksson Contemporary Art gallery opened with plans to showcase regional, state and national artists. The couple opened the gallery as newlyweds, drawing artists from as far away as New York and Texas and as close as Columbus. Prices of art ranged from $40 to $10,000.
They envisioned the gallery as a place to showcase career artists, selling their works to art collectors.
The couple expected to underwrite the gallery for a time, but sales at Jacksson were inconsistent. Although some shows garnered $8,000 to $10,000 in sales, some shows would end with no sales at all.
If works didn’t sell, Sawin and Kadlec got no income from the show.
Galleries are supported through gallery fees, which is a commission structure. The fees are used to overhead business costs including leased space, insurance and staff.
At Jacksson, sales were usually split with 45 percent of the sale going to the gallery and the rest going to the artist — a more generous division than the typical 50/50 gallery split.
“(Jacksson Contemporary has) been the most professionally run gallery anybody has tried to do in town,” said Columbus-based artist Robert Pulley, who showed his pieces at the gallery’s first show. “Everybody shows up for the openings and drinks (Kadlec’s) wine and eats his cheese, but it’s hard to find buyers. An individual can’t be expected to bankroll a gallery.”
Art-collecting culture is not strong in America, Kadlec said, with consumers wanting bargains or works of art that match their decor rather than heirloom pieces with potential value in future markets.
The gallery’s current show, “The Chicken Show,” has sold three pieces, including a $950 fully functional chicken coop by Michele Signorino, a Bloomington-based artist.
“(Kadlec) brought in some absolutely fantastic shows,” Columbus Area Arts Council Executive Director Karen Shrode said. “It was a lovely, lovely space. It’s a huge loss.”
Sawin tried to put the development into perspective.
“A gallery closing certainly isn’t a tragedy,” she said. “The gallery is just a vessel. It’s not the message.”
Jacksson Contemporary Art shows included works by artists from New York, Chicago and Texas — as well as many Columbus-based artists, including Kadlec himself.
“It was a place where people who appreciate art could gather,” said Erin Hawkins, Columbus Area Arts Council board president. “There was a sense that community was being formed there.”
Columbus and neighboring Nashville are among the five Indiana cities designated by the state as an arts district. Nashville lists 12 galleries on its website, selling art items such as photography, jewelry and textiles by local artists.
Hawkins cautions against comparing the two communities, however.
“Nashville began as and has always had an identity as an artists colony,” she said. “Certainly, the offerings that you find in Nashville are of a much more traditional style. I don’t feel like it’s really the same customer.”
Just as it began, Jacksson will end with a group show. It will open May 30.
In an email to patrons, Kadlec noted he would consider curating at the existing Jacksson gallery, if an investor would provide a “sweetheart” lease deal.
After Jacksson Contemporary Art closes, Kadlec plans to continue curating shows, including serving as curator for the Columbus Area Arts Councils’ Sculpture Biennial. This initiative is the result of a nationwide call for artists and will feature large-scale sculptures placed around Columbus’ Arts District. Kadlec selected the pieces from that call from about 200 submissions.
“We look forward to partnering with David on future projects,” Hawkins said.
Kadlec recently was asked to be on the board of the Columbus Museum of Art and Design, and the couple have less-concrete plans for pop-up galleries — lasting two or three days — in various sites around town.
The gallery’s closing will leave a hole in the Arts District, one that could surprise visitors to Columbus.
“Part of our identity is so closely linked to the arts,” Hawkins said. “Certainly the Arts Council would support and be excited by any opportunity to bring more visual arts to the Arts District.”
An artisan center has been discussed for downtown, as well as a performing art center, but nothing is concrete at this juncture.